Authentic and fun Mexican Food at Los Olivos Shopping Center
Written By: Elaine Morgan Cutting
Prop Stylist: Carmelle Piña Puesto Irvine
Photographed By: Brianna Moss Puesto Irvine
Walking into Puesto is like entering an urban jungle. The design, modeled after architecture found in Mexico City, is bold and colorful just like the fare Puesto serves. Puesto specializes in authentic and colorful Mexican cuisine, and is most popular for their vivacious array of tacos. Located in south Irvine, this newest branch of Puesto offers guests a fun environment amidst great food, a full bar, and colorful artwork to keep the fiesta alive! Puesto Irvine
In Spanish, Puesto means post or stand. At Puesto the restaurant, it means a place where friends and family gather for a good time and great Mexican food. The name may also be familiar to those restaurant goers in San Diego, as the restaurant has its original and wildly popular locations there. The opening of this new location at the beginning of the year is the response to an overabundance of inquiries from people all over the world for additional venues. Puesto Irvine
The inside of Puesto is definitely unique. The most notable feature is the vibrant wall in the middle of the dining area. Painted with brilliant hues of greens, purples, pinks, blues, and yellows, it’s a breathtaking splash of life and color in the restaurant. The dining area also features sturdy lighted metal archways, lively leafy plants, and a wide window looking into the bustling kitchen. Puesto is designed to accommodate several different kinds of dining arrangements, each with their own vibe. There’s typical seating, a full bar seating, a patio, a room for private parties, and three tables directly in the kitchen for an immersive culinary experience.
When dining at Puesto, it’s important to start with appetizers, as all are designed to help your palate anticipate the taco greatness to come. The chicharrónes are a staff favorite; the perfect blend of crunchy and salty compliment anything on the menu, if you can stand saving some for later. Puesto also serves three different types of guacamole at all times. In addition to a classic recipe and rotating seasonal inspired mix, Puesto also serves their Puesto Perfect blend, a mix of classic creamy avocado and salty parmesan cheese. It’s an odd combination, but one that your palate will thank you for. Puesto Irvine
The main event at Puesto is their tacos. Colorful blue, stone ground tortillas wrap the vivid ingredients of these intriguing dishes. Some favorites are the Chicken Al Pastor with sweet and spicy pineapple salsa; Zucchini and Cactus; Tamarindo Shrimp; and Mushroom, which is surprisingly refreshing topped with stone fruit salsa. Thankfully, guests don’t have to decide on just one flavor. Mixing and matching is encouraged, and three tacos fit comfortably on perfectly photographable Puesto plates.
However, the Puesto taco experience is incomplete without a classic Mexican beer to pair it with, especially at happy hour. Puesto serves Constellation brand beer and spirits, a perfect complement to the exciting menu. The classic Modelo Especial is the most popular and pairs best with most of the cuisine offerings. With a full bar, Puesto also serves a variety of ingenious cocktails such as the El Mezcalito made of Vida Mezcal, guanabana, tamarindo soda, lime leaf, and charred orange. For classics like the Piña Colada and Tijuana Lime Micheladas, the beauty is found in freshness and simplicity. With no twists, these drinks are simply a perfect combination of the traditional recipe.
Finally, what meal would be complete without dessert? Puesto offers a flavorful frozen horchata to finish off the night with a little sweetness. After the bill is paid and the check is signed, you won’t want to leave your seat.
Interview With Puesto’s Executive Creative Chef Katy Smith
Q: Walk us through some of the highlights of the menu.
Katy Smith: Our menu is all about the tacos, but we do have some really fun starters that are great for getting your palate ready for all the flavors you’re going to get when eating our tacos. My favorite is our Baja striped sea bass that we serve raw with a spicy guava broth and then some beautiful fresh garnishes to cool out the spice.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for the dishes?
KS: I’ve done a lot of traveling in Mexico, so some of them are memories of dishes that I ate in Mexico. And some of it is more ingredient focused, seeing what’s seasonal and how I can turn that into really awesome Mexican food.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to make?
KS: I get really excited about making the soups. I love things that are braised; I love slow cooking sauces. We can make them in bigger batches so I can take my time with them.
Q: A big thing at Puesto is the beer and taco combinations. Why do they make such a great combination?
KS: None of our tacos are simple, they’re super flavorful. We’ve got flavorful meat followed by flavorful salsas, usually at least one kind of salsa on every taco. They are really rounded and balanced and vibrant and something like a beer is just going to balance it perfectly.
Q: What can guests look forward to at Puesto?
KS: At Puesto we strive to have a party atmosphere. Our walls are neon colored, and at night we’ve got loud music—it’s a beautiful restaurant. Our food is not fancy, it is delicious and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. We want people to come here and have a great time. I think it really ties into Mexican food well. It’s about feeding your family. It’s about celebrating food.
Q: How would you say the food ties in with the design?
KS: It’s new, it’s fun, it’s bright and colorful.
Q: Where’s the best seat?
KS: Maybe it’s just me because I’m a chef, but I love going to restaurants that have those bar seats that face the kitchen. The best spot is right out here where I can see the kitchen, but I’m not completely enveloped by it.
No Ordinary Tortilla: Each tortilla is handmade from organic, non-GMO, American-grown blue corn.
The Happiest Hours: Taco Tuesday is from 3 p.m. to close. Puesto offers $2.50 tacos and $3.50 Modelo cans for a perfect evening of tacos and beer. Happy hour is Monday through Friday 3-6 p.m. and offers $3.50 tacos, and $6 Puesto perfect margaritas.
8577 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618
Puesto Irvine Puts the Feast in Fiesta!